Educator Spotlight

Educator Spotlight - Stacy Varela

The Newsela Team
Jan 13, 2020

Our first Educator Spotlight of 2020, Stacy Varela, stands out for her dedication to her 4th grade students and for her continuous feedback to the Newsela team. 

Stacy is in her 16th year in the classroom, currently teaching at the Horace Mann School in Los Angeles, California. We got to meet Stacy this summer at the ISTE conference in Philly and excited that she has continued to support new initiatives with Newsela. 

Last week we announced 3 new ways to experience Newsela. Stacy helped test out these products and provided valuable feedback. Now teachers will have more access to content, easier searching for standards and new assessments for ELA, Science and Social Studies.  You can get a first look by following this link. 

Stacy has some awesome tips and insights into her classroom. Join us in celebrating Stacy. 

What is your favorite after-school snack?

As a student, my favorite after school snack was nachos.

Why did you become a teacher?

I wanted to become a teacher since the 5th grade. I really liked my teacher and as I look back, 5th grade was a turning point where school and friends fell into place. I liked being in her classroom and love school supplies.

How does Newsela fit into your classroom?

Newsela fits in my classroom during our morning routine while I am checking homework, early finishers throughout the day, and during Science time. When we do not have a text set we are working on, scholars are always excited to have free choice on Newsela.

What would you say to an educator that is new or just getting started with Newsela?

I would say that getting started does not take much and to just jump in. I felt having scholars first try and pick an article of their choice, then assign an article or text set, is easier and they can explore to find what is interesting to them. I would tell someone that is getting started that scholars reading at their own level is important, but the data that Newsela produces after scholars take quizzes and even write about an article is valuable for scholars and teachers. I would also direct them to the Educator Center where they can find answers to their questions.

What is a memorable teaching moment while using Newsela?

My most memorable teaching moment was when we were learning about volcanoes and I followed up their learning with a text set. Scholars were surprised they were reading a news article that was related directly to what they were learning and the source was the Washington Post.

I also had one scholar come up to me this year and tell me they did not like to read. I introduced Newsela in the beginning of the year and then this one scholar would always ask if he finished his assignment, could he go on Newsela. I said sure. I asked if he was finding articles that were interesting to him and he said yes! He said I like to learn about what is happening now, especially about video games.

Why did you become a Newsela Certified Educator? 

I became a Newsela Certified Educator to learn about how to use Newsela top to bottom. I also wanted to be able to pass on what I learned to my school site where I am apart of the technology committee. 

What do you want other educators to know about the new Science content and navigation on Newsela? 

The new Science content on Newsela makes a huge difference for me. I appreciate the NGSS standards are right there under the article title and information. This helps me plan for science since I can access the standards that will be covered in the article I am viewing. When I put my mouse over the standard in the article, the explanation of the standard pops up. This has made it easier to come up with an assignment or text set. I can also do a search for the standard and find an article related to the standard. Another great addition to the Science content on Newsela is the curriculum alignment with Mystery Science. I think it is awesome that we can either have scholars read about the topics we are covering in class, before, during, or after to see the topic in a real article. The quizzes are also related to science standards instead of ELA standards. I enjoy the different navigation as well. 

You can see more of Stacy’s classroom practices by viewing her Text Set - Energy - Using Energy in our Everyday Lives. Plus follow her on Instagram and Twitter - @mrsvarela221

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